Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 1st November 2006.

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Photo of Michael Martin Michael Martin Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission 11:30 am, 1st November 2006

Order. I allowed the right hon. Gentleman to get away with that before. I will not labour the point—the Prime Minister is here to talk about the business of the Government. [Interruption.] Order. I am giving a ruling on an important point. Questions should be about the business of the Government. The issue of who will be the next leader of the Labour party is for the Labour party to talk about and decide. [ Interruption. ] Order. I am giving a ruling. Ultimately, that leader may become the Prime Minister, but I am telling the right hon. Gentleman that it is not a matter for the Floor of the House. [Interruption.] Order. Hon. Gentlemen should not keep interrupting me, or I will suspend the sitting and the Leader of the Opposition will not be able to speak. I am making it clear that it is not a matter for the Prime Minister, who is responsible for Government business.


Steven Manson
Posted on 2 Nov 2006 12:34 pm (Report this annotation)

This is ridiculous. The Speaker of the House is meant to be impartial. Michael Martin is a Labour member but has constantly defended the Prime Minister for 6 years. Not the first time Michael Martin has courted controversy, yes he is a Labour MP but he is meant to be impartial and I think he lets Blair away with far too much and ought to intervene more to keep the PM on track to answer Government scrutiny and not to attack the Opposition's policies. He keeps no order in the Chamber.

Mark Bestford
Posted on 2 Nov 2006 1:02 pm (Report this annotation)

In this case I think you'll find Michael Martin has been correct. It is not the PM's job to state who he would like to see as the next Labour leader. There is no current leadership contest and when there is one that is a question for the Labour Party and not the House of Commons. However, shortly after the outburst detailed above he did allow a rephrased question to be asked, that of who Tony Blair would like to see as the next Prime Minister, as that is a question for the House of Commons.

However, I do feel that the threat to end the session was ill-conceived. It shows the House as being full of petty squabbling children. Mind, when hearing many of the debates the MPs themselves do a very good job of showing themselves to be petty and quarrelsome. I'm sick of hearing MPs put down ideas from the other side of the House simply because it's not their party's idea. If someone has a good idea, or a good piece of legislation I don't care if it's a Labour, Tory or Lib Dem idea. The flip side of this is that I'm also sick of hearing Labour forcing their MPs to vote with them because it's an idea by Labour central. In my opinion the MP is there to represent their constituents, not to represent their party. If the majority of an MPs constituents are against a piece of legislation I would expect them to vote against it, regardless of what their party thinks. That is what they are employed for.

Arjun Mittra
Posted on 2 Nov 2006 8:04 pm (Report this annotation)

Steven is utterly wrong. The speaker has for a number of weeks stopped the prime minister from commenting on opposition policies, it is only fair he now stops david cameron from asking who the prime minister's person preference is for leadership of the Labour party.The speaker was right to make sure that the house holds the Prime minister to account for Government policies.

What was disgraceful was David Camerons dissent- I would have kicked him out of the house for that. The speaker was doing his job, and cameron is setting a bad example by showing dissent.

Steven Manson
Posted on 3 Nov 2006 11:10 am (Report this annotation)

No, I disagree. I have always had my doubts about Gorbals Mick, but I admit he had a tough act to follow in Speaker Boothroyd.

He presides over some of the rowdiest debates I have ever seen in Parliament and will not intervene when Labour MP's heckle the Tory benches. At least this is how it appears.

And I do agree with Mark in that I was dumbfounded when Martin threatened to terminate the sitting. Utterly ill-conceived.

Thomas Benton
Posted on 1 Mar 2007 8:07 pm (Report this annotation)

The question that David Cameron asked, as phrased, was strictly a political question. I think it important to note, as a member did previously, that the Speaker did allow a rephrased question of who the PM would like to see succeed him as PM, which is definitely a question for the House.

However, I would have to say that David Cameron is the leader of the opposition, and therefore, would not be doing his job if he did not dissent to the Speaker's ruling. It was not David Cameron's respectful dissent that urged the Speaker to threaten to suspend the sitting, it was the continuous outcry from the Tory benches.